spelling of theater/theatre (US English)

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Stoggler, Dec 6, 2012.

  1. Stoggler

    Stoggler Senior Member

    Sussex, GBR
    UK English

    A quick question about the US spelling of theater/theatre.

    As a general rule, there is a difference between US and British English spelling with words ending in -er or -re respectively, such as center/centre, liter/litre, meter/metre, somber/sombre, saber/sabre, etc etc (I could go on and on...!).

    Everything I've read on this spelling difference includes the word theater/theatre with this spelling difference. However, I've seen in the US the non-US spelling of theatre, on the side of cinemas especially.

    Is there a reason for this difference in usage within America? When the standard US usage is to spell the word theater, why does the theatre-spelling occur fairly frequently? Are both spellings considered acceptable in US-usage?

  2. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
  3. MuttQuad

    MuttQuad Senior Member

    New York, NY
    English - AmE
    The differences most likely occur due to changes by Americans over the years, e.g. colour to color, etc. The British favor -re, whereas American usage favors -er, as you note; but the -re spelling of theatre is commonly seen in print in the US -- probably for effect. The others, such as litre, kilometre, etc. are not common in American English, nor is the -our ending, with some exceptions such as glamour.

    My old company once typeset a very lengthy book about the entertainment industry, in which the word "theater" appeared extremely frequently. After galleys were sent to the publisher, we were informed that the authors had decided to change the spelling to "theatre." In those days, such changes had to be made manually; so you can imagine how much work it was to revise the 50+ galleys that had already been set.
  4. Stoggler

    Stoggler Senior Member

    Sussex, GBR
    UK English
    Thanks for the links entangledbank

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